ST. PAUL — New coronavirus cases surged by more than 2,200 in Minnesota, setting a new record and drawing words of warning from state health officials.
The Minnesota Department of Health on Friday, Oct. 16, reported that 2,297 more people had tested positive for COVID-19, the largest jump in one-day totals the state has seen since the start of the pandemic. Thirteen more Minnesotans died from the disease. The number comes as the state continues efforts to ramp up testing availability in the face of growing instances of community spread of the illness.
Testing rates also ballooned, with nearly 44,398 new PCR and antigen tests completed Thursday, Oct. 15, according to the daily report, though the rate of positive cases among those tested remained relatively steady. That's the highest one-day testing rate to date, state health officials said.
Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the growing rate of cases didn't meet the levels of neighboring states' but signaled serious ramifications were on the horizon.
"I'm very saddened and I'm frankly deeply worried about today's numbers, but I'm sadly not surprised. For a number of weeks, we've continued to see our case numbers climb," Malcolm said. "This is not because of one specific particular event or large gathering and it is not because of any one known large outbreak. Instead, it is the result of just steady, inexorable spread in communities across the state between people who don't know they have contracted the virus."
Health officials said family gatherings and social events without mask-wearing and social distancing led to widespread community transmission. And they warned that COVID-19 fatigue, the process of people becoming fed up with mitigation measures and abandoning them, could further grow new cases of the illness along with associated hospitalizations and deaths.
"With this level of community spread, with this level of virus all across our state, some of the things we maybe thought we thought maybe was OK to do a month ago is much much riskier today," Malcolm said. "We're at a pivotal point. We really have to take action now."
Another 13 Minnesotans, ranging in age from their late 50s to more than 100 years old, have died due to COVID-19, the state reported Friday. Six of those were residents of long-term care or assisted living facilities, while six resided in private residences. Another individual who died of COVID-19 lived a group home.
In total, 2,212 Minnesotans have perished of COVID-19 and its complications.
Another five Minnesotans were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Thursday and one required intensive care, the department reported. There were 461 hospitalized as of Friday afternoon and 137 in the ICU. Since the pandemic took hold in Minnesota, 2,375 patients have been placed in ICU care and 105,120 have been able to come out of isolation after testing positive for COVID-19.
Hennepin Healthcare CEO Jennifer DeCubellis said the basics of COVID-19 mitigation health officials have recommended for months remain especially important as health care systems report growing numbers of health care workers sickened with the illness or having to quarantine after potential exposure. Without healthcare workers available to work shifts around the state, hospitals have had to bring down available bed space, she said.
"Any time that we get staff calling in or needing to be quarantined, it impacts our schedules for the next 14-day cycle," DeCubellis said. "We cannot open a bed and put somebody in it unless we have safe levels of staffing."
DeCubellis and others recommended that Minnesotans stay home if sick, wear a mask, social distance and practice good hand hygiene.
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- Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
- COVID-19 discrimination hotline: 833-454-0148
- Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.